Nueces County, TX – On Thursday, August, 5, during a meeting a spur-of-the-moment verbal exchange between County Commisioner Chuck Cazalas and County Judge Loyd Neal took place. Cazalas referred to Insurance Consultant Thomas Duran (Neal’s longtime associate and business partner), who appeared on payroll as “Neal’s (Insurance) Consultant.”
County Judge Neal, who has some 44 years in the insurance business in the area, fired back by saying, “He is not ‘my’ consultant, but the ‘county’s counsultant.’” Cazalas, whose blood-ridden face turned a cherry crimson, returned fire: “Yeah! Right!”. This exchange occurred during the discussion of bugetary cuts today after the commissioners reviewed a two-page list of proposed spending cuts by Neal.
Neal tried to justify his specious recommendations to cut $1.4 million in spending and keep the tax rate at 35.5 cents per $100 valuation. He claimed it would be a way to avoid raising taxes in a manner that would anger the community. Commissioner Cazalas’ rejoinder was a skeptical one: “Yeah, right.” When all was be said and done, Neal’s budgetary cuts and increases were perceived as a protracted planned subterfuge; it was exposed by some of the commissioners.
The regional CORPUS CHRISTI CALLER-TIMES reported that “Commissioners reached a consensus on 14 budget cuts in an attempt to trim $1.4 million in spending”; but the cited would be a report not of a studious expression and would not statisfactory capture the growing outrage both among employees and many a family in the community.
Among the cuts the following: Neal pushed to reject a two percent pay increase for all county employees they had been promised, court-appointed attorneys for poor children for court-at-law No. 5 and critical allotments to other needed jobs in the jails and so forth, and as expected to the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds (Neal is affilated with the downtown group that wants to monopolise social activities in their real-estate turf in a congested part of downtown influenced by the political patron (Al Jones of American Bank).
County Judge Neal showed no leniency for the judicious, no-nonsense suggestions made by Cazalas to deal with the financial meat-axing of the day. Instead Neal – who seemed to be motivated by an ego-driven vigor - tried to thrust ahead despite the hubbub; but Cazalas convincingly interjected (and so did other commissioners) who felt Neal was dealing with the matter in an high-handed style.
Other commisioners remonstrated and pointed out that how come County Judge Loyd Neal did not want to cut down on his personal travel budget (and that of other commisioners) nor on the exorbitant rates being paid to his former Insurance business partner -- Thomas Duran – who is working for the “county” supposedly to advice them on the route to take with their “group insurance.” Additionally, another commisioner – Pusley – asked how come Duran did not take a cut in pay if other county employees were being asked to do so? Neal refused to cut Duran’s salary. [Note 1: Some suspect that Duran – who has a reputation for lobbying and pushing for what is known to be ‘Self-Insured’ or “Employer-Funded Group Health Insurance plans, as opposed to ‘Fully Insured” plans (and who has worked closely with Neal in the past) was hired to help put a process in place that benefits Neal’s scheme for his favored (Employer-Funded) health insurance type dominate in the county]; [Note 2: “Fully-Funded” plan is when an insurance company covers catastrophic losses; “Employer-Funded”, when Employers do.]
Neal did suggest that the car allowances and travel for the county judge and commissioners not be razored off. He also suggested an increase in pay for an inland park director whom he favors. Cazalas returned: “My director deserves a pay increase also; mine is actually bringing in money – a profit to the coutny.” But Cazala’s plea was shunned by Neal.
But there is more to the story. Neal also targeted other political rivals in the budget such as County Judge Terry Shamsie’s court – Neal suggested that funding for legal representation for poor children be cut (note: Neal is supporting shamie’s political opponent in the November 2 election). Furthermore, Neal suggested a cut of $50,000 in CPS funds.
Tax Assessor-Collector Ronnie Canales said he could not afford anymore cuts in his staff. It had taken "a beating" in the last few years. “I can hardly operate as it is,” he petitioned. “We were promised more staff so the office runs smoothly the way it should this year, but we haven’t yet been given that luxury.”
In the next few days the commissioner’s court will be taking the final action. The court will meet up Monday morning to carry on budget deliberations; two items of major concern that will also be discussed are the county's health plan and hospital district. By late September a county budget for the subsequently fiscal yea has to be adopted, fiscal year that takes effect on the 1st of October.
Serious questions remain to be answered. Neal’s former business secretary (Claudia Lobell) has since been hired by the county as Neal’s Personal Secretary at an inflated pay scale. She was recently provided with a helper.
MagicQ 104.9 FM Radio episodically interrupted its regular broadcasting. It used its airwaves to responsible cover this issue. An interview with Clarrisa Gonzalez, who is challenging Loyd Neal, for the Nueces County Judge post in November 2, took place. She said: “I was sadden by the style of County Loyd Neal. He has an ego driven style, it’s his way or the highway. This needs to change this year. We need a collaborative style. One that will reach out fairly to all sectors of the community. We need to move forwards, not backwards, together. The Nueces County Commissioners Court needs to be a less threatening place. It should be a place where rational minds meet to spark progress. I would be proud for you to call me the needed alternative to the top leadership chair we have presently.”
[Note 3: Neal and Duran have a relationship that dates back to the late 1990s. When Neal (who was an insurance agent for “Employer-Funded” insurance and a business partner of Thomas Duran) became mayor, ENTRUST (an “Employer-Funded Insurance) was railroaded through the council. The same insurance he had brought to town; and enrolled Sam Kane Meat Processing in it…. To iterate, while mayor of Corpus Christi, Neal broke a tie when it came to going or not going with ENTRUST insurance. By the way Thomas Duran was the one that presented the ENTRUST proposal before the council… Due to the tie-breaker by then-Mayor Neal, there was an FBI investigation. Despite accusations of unseemliness, the affair was settled. Historical notes demonstrate that ENTRUST (or the “Employer-Funded” Health Insurance Package) was not a good investment in that catastrophic losses had to be paid out. Many made charges that there was a selective relativity in enforcing whose losses were paid out.]